After the House passed a healthcare reform bill in early May that would cause about 23 million Americans to lose insurance, Senate GOP leaders have been meeting in private to discuss what their version of the legislation should look like. Initially, there was hope the Senate would write a healthcare bill drastically different than the House's, but as time passed, it became clear Republican senators were actually just going to keep the nation in the dark.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reportedly wants the Senate to vote on the issue before breaking for a week for July 4. There have been no public hearings on the bill yet, though McConnell thinks it's sufficient that there have been "gazillions of hearings on this subject" over the years, as he said last week.
Actually, Mitch, that's not how this works.
McConnell and his GOP allies will have to release the bill when they want to bring it for a vote, but at that point there will be little time for analysis or debate. The leader also invoked a Senate rule allowing the proposed law to skip the committees that would normally debate the proposal and go straight to a vote, meaning there will be no in-depth study of the bill and the implications it will have on people's lives. (The House also took measures to speed up voting on its healthcare bill.)
The American people have a right to know what the Senate is working on and what specific policies they plan to vote on. Members of Congress are working for us, and any changes made to healthcare policy will have a very real impact on people in every state.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) score of the House's bill (released after it was passed, because Republicans in the House jumped the gun, too), shows that millions of people of all ages will become uninsured in the next decade if the House bill becomes law. And although people without preexisting conditions would see lower premiums, they would get less coverage.
Keeping the healthcare bill hidden away makes it impossible for Democrats to attack specific aspects of the Senate Republicans' healthcare plan, but it also makes it impossible for the public to weigh in. Considering a March poll found that only 17% of Americans support repealing and replacing large parts of Obamacare, it's in Republicans' best interest to keep the details private.
But Congress isn't suppose to work in its own favor, especially when that means passing legislation that will put people's lives at risk.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal is planning an emergency hearing on health care Monday night in protest of the secrecy. He told The Hartford Courant, "It’s a small group of Republicans meeting in secret, [and] none of us on the Democratic side have a clue as to what they’re doing," asking how they're supposed to vote on a bill in the next few weeks that they haven't seen or discussed.
Senate Republicans don't have the right to hide their healthcare plans from their colleagues or the American people. Quickly and quietly passing legislation that could put millions of people's health at risk without even bothering to properly scrutinizing it is beyond partisan politics — it's just cruel.